Iran's Supreme Leader Khamenei backs talks with Washington, but clarifies "we have no trust in them" • U.S. "captured by international Zionism network," he adds • State official: 17 countries produce atomic energy without enrichment; how is Iran different?
Eli Leon, Yoni Hirsch, Shlomo Cesana and The Associated Press
Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, center, attends a graduation ceremony of army cadets, Friday
Photo credit: AP
Despite an amicable phone call with Iranian President Hasan Rouhani, U.S. President Barack Obama and his administration were still harshly criticized by the Islamic republic's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who on Saturday called the U.S. government "arrogant, unreliable and irrational."
"We have no trust in them at all," he added.
Khamenei went on to say that the Americans are "promise-breakers" who are "captured by the international Zionism network," and give flexibility to the thieving Israeli state.
At the same time, in his speech at the military academy in Tehran, Khamenei voiced his support for fostering closer relations with the United States. "We support the diplomatic initiative of the government and attach importance to its activities in this trip," he said, adding that, "some of what happened in the New York trip was not appropriate ... although we trust in our officials."
Khamenei also touched on the threat of Israel attacking Iranian nuclear sites: "We hear the repetitive and disgusting threats of the Iranian nation's enemies. Our response to any mischief will be serious and harsh."
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif blamed Obama for "insulting the Iranian nation," in his declaration at the end of his meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, saying that the military option was still on the table.
On Friday, in an interview with the Associated Press, Obama expressed concern that warming relations with the Iranian president may not be enough. He said Rouhani is not Iran's only "decision-maker. He's not even the ultimate decision-maker," a reference to the control wielded by Khamenei.
Zarif said the exchanges with Washington already have paid dividends by opening opportunities to negotiate a "win-win" nuclear deal that would allow Tehran to maintain its uranium enrichment but provide greater assurances the program remain peaceful. But Iran has not yet given specifics on what it would offer in exchange for possible lifting of Western sanctions when nuclear talks with world powers resume later this month in Geneva.
On Sunday, the New York Times reported American and Israeli intelligence agencies agree on the estimation of the stage of Iran's nuclear program, with Netanyahu opting for the strongest interpretation of available evidence, according to which Iran is months, or even weeks, away from developing nuclear weapons.
Zarif repeated Iran's claims that it does not seek nuclear arms, and urged the U.S. and its allies not to allow Netanyahu to "blackmail the world" and block potential progress in nuclear talks. "We can't let him determine the agenda of the talks. ... Iran won't develop a weapon," Zarif said on a popular talk show on Iranian state TV. "Not six months. Not six years and not 60 years because it doesn't seek one. Netanyahu has been seeking to deceive the world by his lies."
A diplomatic source in Jerusalem said, "As he said in his speech at the U.N., Netanyahu is not opposed to diplomatic negotiation with Iran, but he is firm on the fact that these negotiations bring about the dismantling of Iran's enrichment capability. There is no reason why Iran, which claims to want nuclear energy for peaceful purposes alone, should continue to have the enrichment capability that allows the development of fissile material for the creation of a bomb. Seventeen countries produce nuclear energy without enrichment. Iran asks to keep enrichment centrifuges and heavy water just because they are used to develop nuclear weapons."
Netanyahu himself said upon his return from the United States: "We must never be seduced by the Iranians to lessen sanctions as long as they do not dismantle their military nuclear program."